Pack in the potassium with a Tropical Chia Parfait

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As Heart Health Month comes to a close, I am compelled to write about the mineral that is so important when it comes to your heart!

Potassium is the mineral I’m talking about. It is a mineral that cannot be produced by the body, so you have to turn to food for this important heart protector.

This mineral is also an electrolyte. You’ve probably heard that electrolytes are good for recovery after a hard workout. They also assist in a number of regulatory functions in the body like: water balance, Ph balance, nerve impulses, digestion, blood pressure, and muscle contractions.

Specific to the heart, eating a potassium-rich diet has proven to lower blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease.

If you get muscle cramps, there is a chance you are not getting enough potassium. Reach for a banana or another potassium-rich food if you find yourself coming down with a lot of muscle cramps or spasms.

Foods that contain potassium are those such as:

  • Fruits like bananas, apricots, kiwi, oranges, and kiwi
  • Veggies: leafy greens, carrots, and potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Lean meats
  • Whole grains
  • Beans
  • Nuts

So let’s pull from that list to make you a delicious and nutritious, potassium-packed dessert!

Tropical Chia Parfait

Ingredients:

  • ¼ cup chia seeds
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup/ honey or coconut sugar
  • ½ banana chopped
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Shredded unsweetened coconut
  • Whole grain, low sugar granola

Instructions::

  1. Mix chia seeds, milk, vanilla, and sweetener in a bowl.
  2. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least 2 hours – overnight is best
  3. Assemble: in a small bowl or mason jar spoon in ¼ of mixture then add fruit, granola, and coconut. Add another ¼ of mixture and top with remaining fruit, granola, and coconut chips
  4. Enjoy!

*recipe makes 1-2 servings. Chia pudding can remain covered in fridge for up to 5 days

 

 

Why I’m Bananas over Dates

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Yes, dating your loved one is healthy for your health, but I am talking about the wrinkly little dried fruit that is oh so sweet! We’re right smack in the middle of the holiday season and this is the time of year that people are hooked on sugar and it’s so hard to get off it once you’re on it! I use dates to satisfy my sweet tooth in a healthy way.

Dates come from the date palm plant. In our country, they are primarily grown in California and Florida. There is also a destination in Arizona where they are grown, appropriately named Dateland!

Here are some of the amazing health benefits of dates:

Phenomenal Fiber

Do you know that you are supposed to get at least 30 grams of fiber today?! It’s likely that you do not consume enough because the latest research shows that only 10 percent of American get enough fiber! Dates are one way that you can up your fiber intake! One serving of dates has a whopping 7 grams of fiber!

Fiber can help your digestion and helps prevent your blood sugar from spiking!

Packed with Phenolic Acid

Phenolic acid is an antioxidant that has amazing anti-inflammatory properties, which can help protect you against almost any disease, including heart disease and cancer!

High in Minerals

Dates are high in potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and even have a decent amount of iron. These minerals help promote bone health. Potassium is excellent for heart health as well. And iron is important for carrying oxygen to your muscles and your brain!

Are you going to join me in eating dates this month?! Here’s a recipe to start you off! And because I want to help you defeat the sugar temptation this month, I promise to post a new date recipe each week in December!

Bananas over Dates Smoothie

Ingredients:

  • 2 frozen bananas chopped
  • ½ cup dates
  • 2 cups unsweetened almond milk
  • ½ teaspoon ground gloves
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions: Place all of the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth.

 

 

 

 

 

Totally obsessed with tomatoes

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I have been “big” on tomatoes the past month; every day someone I know brings me freshly harvested tomatoes! Whether you grow your own or pick up some at a local farm stand, tomatoes are an amazingly nutritious food choice. And when you choose fresh, seasonal produce, you get a higher dose of nutrients that the fruit or veggie supplies.

Why Tomatoes?

Tomatoes are a major source of lycopene, which is an antioxidant that has been proven to boost your immune system and helps prevent cancer and heart disease. Lycopene also protects your eyes—studies suggest that it may prevent or delay cataracts. Additionally, lycopene has been shown to help prevent cognitive decline and protect your bones. Pretty amazing, right?

And that’s not all, lycopene can also help protect you against sunburns!

Tomatoes are also loaded with vitamin C, also an antioxidant. Tomatoes have potassium too, which is perfect for helping to keep your blood pressure in check.

Try Heirloom Tomatoes

Step out of your comfort zone and give heirloom tomatoes a try. Several farms in the CNY area grow heirloom tomatoes. Sun golds are my favorite—they are small like grape tomatoes except they are a golden orange color; they are juicy and sweeter than traditional tomatoes. Keep in mind that the pigment of a vegetable is associated with the nutrients it contains. Eat as many colors as you can when it comes to fruits and veggies. The more colors you consume, the more nutrients you get!

I use tomatoes in every meal. Chop them up and add them into your breakfast omelets. Add them to your sandwiches at lunch. I love a good tuna fish sandwich on whole grain bread with a couple slices of fresh local tomato, and romaine lettuce. Of course, you can add them to any salad! Below is a recipe for a salad where the tomato is the super star! And it’s a quick and easy side choice.

Fall is on it’s way so I am going to try canning some of these tomatoes so I can preserve these amazing fresh, local tomatoes all yearlong!

 

Celebrate Cherry Season

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Cherry season is upon us in Central New York and I love it! Cherries are the perfect snack and they are a nutrition-boosting compliment to every meal. Add them to your yogurt, smoothie, or oatmeal for breakfast. Toss them in a salad for lunch or dinner. The best news about cherries is their health benefits. In fact, they are one of the most nutritious foods you can eat. Here are a few reasons why.

Cherries can help with weight-loss efforts.

Cherries are a high-fiber food, which is always good for weight-loss because fiber keeps us fuller longer. A lab study actually proved that cherries can in fact help prevent weight gain. In a study published in the Journal of Medical Food, rats that were given tart cherry powder mixed into a high-fat diet didn’t gain as much weight as rats consuming the same diet without cherries. The cherry powder intake was associated with lower lipid (fat) levels in the blood, percentage fat mass and abdominal fat weight as well.

Cherries can help you sleep better.

We could all use some good slumber, right? Well, cherries can help with this! Cherries are a great source of melatonin, a sleep-promoting hormone. Very few foods contain melatonin. Our bodies can manufacture a little bit of it through the pineal gland in our brain—consuming cherries can give us some extra melatonin to make sure we sleep soundly.

Cherries can increase your energy levels.

Of course better sleep can help with better energy levels, but there’s something else about cherries that can help boost your energy. The natural sugar and water content of cherries along with a plethora of antioxidants will no-doubt help prevent any energy dips you might experience during the day.

Cherries can protect against Diabetes

A lot of people with diabetes deter from fruit because of the sugar content. Cherries have a low glycemic index though so they don’t sky-rocket your sugar levels. Cherries have a glycemic index (GI) of 22 compared to say grapes that have a GI of 46, strawberries that have a GI of 41 or apples that have a GI of 39.

Cherries can reduce muscle and joint pain.

Hold off on the ibuprofen please! Cherries can reduce muscle and joint pain! A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that cherries helped prevent post workout pain in runners. Another study conducted at the Osteoarthritis Research Center found that cherry consumption greatly reduced the pain experienced by patients with osteoarthritis.

Cherries can protect your heart.

High in antioxidants and fiber, it should come as no surprise that cherries can protect your heart. The potassium content of cherries is particularly healthy for the heart by helping to regulate blood pressure,

Get yourself to the market and get some cherries today. They’re in season right now in Central New York through the month of July! And for a special treat, dip them in dark chocolate, which is also high in antioxidants!

By Kelly Springer RD, MS, CDN

Celebrate World Milk Day

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Today, I have chosen to #RaiseaGlass to celebrate #WorldMilkDay!

World Milk Day is a day established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations to recognize the importance of milk as a global food. It has been observed on June 1 each year since 2001.

I love milk because just one glass can deliver you some awesome nutrition. Here are just a few of the nutrients that make milk amazing and what these nutrients can do for you:

One nutrient that immediately comes to mind and that many of you know about is calcium. Milk is loaded with it; this nutrient is important for your teeth and your bones!

Milk also has phosphorous, which works in tandem with calcium for strong teeth and bones.

Milk is an excellent source of protein, which is absolutely essential for muscle growth, development, and repair.

Milk also has potassium, making it a great choice for keeping yourself hydrated!

Milk is rich in iodine, which is the most important nutrient for assuring that you have a healthy thyroid; it is also helpful in keep you energized!

Speaking of energy, the B vitamins in milk (B5, B2, and B12) are great for maintain great energy levels, keeping you focused and reducing fatigue.

I choose to give my girls milk for a bedtime snack. It keeps them feeling satiated throughout the night, giving them a good night’s sleep.

I also let them have chocolate milk for a snack! In fact, it is probably the healthiest sweet drink kids can have, especially when you make it with dark chocolate syrup (sans the high-fructose corn syrup) like I do!

#Raiseaglass with me today; milk is definitely something to celebrate!

By Kelly Spring, MS, RD, CDN

 

Improve your Heart Health this New Year

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I have a lot of clients who come to me seeking to lower their alarming cholesterol levels, lower their blood pressure, or both. Both of these conditions affect your heart health and I want to give you some tips on how to improve both.

Let’s start with blood pressure. To lower your blood pressure through diet, you want to consume foods high in potassium and low in sodium.

Reduce canned or processed foods. Much of the salt you eat comes from canned or processed foods like soups or frozen dinners—even poultry or other meats often have salt added during processing. Eating fresh foods, looking for unsalted meats, and making your own soups or stews can dramatically reduce your sodium intake. Cook at home, using spices for flavor. Cooking for yourself enables you to have more control over your salt intake. Make use of the many delicious alternatives to salt. Try fresh herbs like basil, thyme, or chives. In the dried spices aisle, you can find alternatives such as allspice, bay leaves, or cumin to flavor your meal without sodium. Substitute reduced sodium versions, or salt substitutes. Choose your condiments and packaged foods carefully, looking for foods labeled sodium free, low sodium, or unsalted. Better yet, use fresh ingredients and cook without salt.

Potassium helps you heart by reducing the effects of sodium! Many people turn to bananas for potassium. Yes, they are a great source, but there are some tasty veggies with even higher amounts. Some foods that are high in potassium include avocados, spinach and sweet potatoes.

Now, let’s talk about lowering your cholesterol. There are multiple ways to address your cholesterol nutritionally Increase your soluble fiber intake; soluble fiber reduces your LDL cholesterol. A common food choice that truly helps to do this is oatmeal! Check out my blog with overnight oat recipes. Having a high-fiber breakfast will also help your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight, both of which also help your heart health. Other foods high in soluble fiber include: apricots, mangoes, oranges, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, and turnips.

Healthy fats raise your ratio of HDL (or good cholesterol)  to LDL (or bad cholesterol). Some healthy fats to consider are salmon, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. And there are certain flavonoids found in dark chocolate, red wine, apples, spinach and tea that help lower cholesterol.

Here’s to your heart! Stay tuned for more heart health blogs in February, in honor of heart health month!

Celebrate Sweet Potato Month

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It comes to no surprise that November is sweet potato awareness month! Many people only ever eat sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. They are a regular part of my diet, especially in the colder months.

A great way to prepare them is to thinly slice them and steam them for 8-10 minutes. This brings out their delicious flavor and preserves their nutritional value. Adding nutmeg or cinnamon can enhance the flavor and add even more nutritional value.

Speaking of nutrition, the nutrition in a serving of sweet potatoes is astounding. In one serving, you get over 200 percent of your daily Vitamin A needs. Sweet potatoes are also high in vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, biotin, and potassium.

Sweet potatoes have an antioxidant known as Anthocyanin that is an amazing anti-inflammatory. With that said, several studies have discovered how foods with Anthocyanin help protect against several inflammatory conditions like heart disease and cancer; anthocyanin also appears to help cognitive function.

As part of the Iowa Women’s Health Study, 34,489 postmenopausal women without Cardiovascular Disease (heart disease) had their diets assessed and were followed for 16 years. The researchers found that consuming anthocyanin-rich food once per week was associated with a significant reduction in death from heart disease and coronary artery disease.

As for cancer, in animal studies, anthocyanins inhibit cancer development in animals given carcinogens and in those with a hereditary predisposition to cancer. Anthocyanins have been tested against esophageal, colon, skin, and lung cancer, and in several cases have been effective against the development and progression of these cancers.

Research suggests that flavonoids, including anthocyanins, have the ability to enhance memory and help prevent age-related declines in mental functioning.

Isn’t that awesome?!

And here’s probably the coolest way to prepare sweet potatoes: you can eat it like toast! Yes, I said toast! Here’s what you do: slice your sweet potato into ¼ inch slices and crank your toaster up to the highest setting, add your sweet potato slices, and keep toasting until the surface of each slice is beginning to brown and the inside is tender when pierced with a fork.

So, enjoy sweet potatoes later this week at your Thanksgiving feast, and keep ‘em coming all winter long!

Satisfy your Sweet Tooth with Figs

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Hi friends!

How are you doing resisting the Halloween candy swarming all around? I’m doing quite well, I must say. I am taking my own advice that I provided in a blog post earlier this month; check out my tips here.

Fruit totally helps me healthfully satisfy my sweet tooth as well. In fact, this past week was National Fig Week. Figs in the U.S. are primarily grown in California and what I love so much about figs is that they are so unbelievably sweet and surprisingly low in calories. One-half cup of figs is only about 120 calories.

Another cool factor about figs is the variety (not as many types as apples, but still quite a few). The most popular types of figs that are easiest to find are: Black Mission, Brown Turkish, Calimyrna, Kadota, and Sierra figs. Here are the ways in which they are different.

Black Mission:

These figs have purple and black skin with a deep earthy flavor.

Brown Turkish:

These figs have light purple to black skin with a robust flavor.

Calimyrna:

These figs have pale yellow skin with a buttery and a nutty flavor.

Kadota:

These figs have a creamy amber skin with a light flavor (not as pungent as the others).

Sierra:

These figs have light-colored skin with a fresh, sweet flavor.

So whereas candy “poisons” your body with sugar and chemicals, figs boost your health. Figs are an excellent source of dietary fiber and are also high in antioxidants, fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. They are also a good source of potassium, which means they are heart-healthy!

The fiber in figs makes them an excellent choice for weight-loss or maintenance, as well as heart health.  Fruit fiber can also help protect against cancer. For instance, results of a prospective study involving 51,823 postmenopausal women for an average of 8.3 years showed a 34 percent reduction in breast cancer risk for those consuming the most fruit fiber compared to those consuming the least.

So, eat up my friends! Enjoy figs—I promise you they are even tastier than candy!

 

 

Nutrition Labels to Become Easier for you to Decipher

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So often, clients come to be confused about nutrition labels. What should they be looking for? What should they avoid? Some basics are:

  1. Be careful about serving sizes. So often you may think “Wow, this product is low in calories, but if you look at the serving size and it is 2.5, you have to multiply the calories by 2.5.
  2. Make sure your food choice has at least a couple grams of fiber. So many processed foods have 0-1 grams of fiber. Not cool!
  3. Be careful about the sugar content. Keep in mind that 4 grams of sugar equals an entire teaspoon.

I actually have good news to announce about nutrition labels. The FDA is making some changes that will make label reading easier for you!

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Old label vs. New label

Though the new nutrition facts label will not be fully implemented until July of 2018, it is good to have basic knowledge about the changes. Here are the major highlights to be on the lookout for.

  1. New format and larger font. The nutrition facts label will now make it easier to read the serving sizes and calories by increasing and bolding the font.
  2. “Added Sugars” will be clearly labeled.Grams and percent %DV of “Added Sugars” will be added to the label.
  3. “Calories from Fat” will be removed.Staying consistent with current research, the types of fat seems to be more important than amount; therefore, “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will stay on the label.
  4. Serving and Package Sizes adjusted.Serving sizes will now be based on amounts people are actually consuming. Packaged items that have 1-2 servings will now have a food label that represents the whole package and not just the serving size or have a two columns, one column for single serving and another for the whole package.
  5. Updates for %DV.Sodium, dietary fiber, and vitamin D will have updated %DV according to recent research.
  6. Added gram amounts.Vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium will now have gram amounts on the food label, in addition to %DV.
  7. No longer required on the label. Vitamin A and C will no long be required on nutrition facts label, but can be put on voluntarily.

Feel free to contact me if you need help in deciphering nutrition labels! I am looking forward to these new labels—especially the larger font!

 

Beat the Heat with Hydration!

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It’s been HOT lately so the topic of hydration couldn’t be any timelier. Hydration is a popular topic in sports nutrition; they need to be concerned that they replenish their electrolytes as so many are lost through sweating.  Hydration is not just important for athletes though; it is important for everyone who gets out in that hot summer sun!  You can become dehydrated by an hour stint of gardening for example.

Did you know that 2/3 of your body weight is water? Water is critical to all the body’s systems, including the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and muscles. Water is necessary for your body to digest and absorb vitamins and nutrients. It also detoxifies the liver and kidneys, and carries away waste from the body.  A two percent drop in body water can cause a small but critical shrinkage of the brain, which can impair neuromuscular coordination, decrease concentration, and slow thinking.

If you are dehydrated, your blood is literally thicker, and your body has to work that much harder to make it circulate more efficiently. As a result, the brain becomes less active, more fatigued, and leads to exhaustion. This is precisely why you feel so tired after a day in the sun, but guess what?!

Water alone is not going to cut it when it comes to preventing dehydration in the summer. You need ELECTROLYTES! Some people think that electrolytes are simply salt, but there are actually seven different electrolytes and they are: sodium (“salt”), chloride, potassium, magnesium, calcium, phosphate, and bicarbonate.

I like to have coconut water as my drink of choice when I am out in the sun; it contains a high amount of potassium, magnesium, calcium, and sodium. Some of my favorite hydrating foods are cucumbers, watermelon, broccoli, strawberries, and tomatoes. Your craving for salty foods may increase as you become dehydrated, but don’t reach for chips; instead choose something like GimMe Seaweed Snacks; they’ll fulfill that salty craving; they are so healthy for you, and the bonus is that they are loaded with electrolytes!

So how do you know if you are dehydrated?

Check out your urine! A large amount of light colored, diluted urine probably means you are hydrated; dark colored, concentrated urine probably means you are dehydrated.

You can also use the pinch test! Dehydration often reduces skin elasticity, so doctors often use this skin test to quickly check for dehydration. The best part is that you can do it yourself: Pinch the skin on the back of your hand and pull it upwards. Your skin should snap back rapidly. If your skin maintains its pinched shape for a few seconds and drops slowly, you may be dehydrated.

I beg you to please protect yourself from dehydration all the time, but especially in this heat; the side effects are brutal! You’ll overheat, which feels even hotter than the intense heat that the sun is already emitting! You’ll also want to watch your alcohol and caffeine intake because both are naturally dehydrating.

Have fun in the sun, the healthy way!